Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stock Recommendations - 18th March 2008

Stock Recommendations - 18th March 2008

Hi -
As you all are aware I am an value investor and stock picking is one of my passions... Having studied a lot of companies and invested in them, here are few recommendations from my side.

With the stock market crash in past 2 months, I thought it would be a great idea to list the stocks that I would pick if I were to select 20 companies and had a kitty of 2 lacs. Unfortunately, as of now I do not have that much cash so all I can do is at least recommend it to others :-)

There is of course immenient chance of the Stock market going further down. So I would rather recommend buying these stocks more if they were to go down further in the same proportion as the current allocation mentioned below. And it goes without saying, I would recommend to hold these stocks for long term (at least 2 years and more) and not for short term trading / gains.

As of today the stock index is at Sensex: 14,833.46 / Nift: 4533.00

It will be a good idea to track this investment periodically and then compare it with the index gains...

Here is the list of 20 companies that I recommend -


Do share comments if any.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Do’s, Don’ts, and Best Practices on Email Communication

Through my experience working in an IT firm for over 8 years as part of production team, I have tried to list down the Do's, Don'ts, and Best Practices on email communication. This will be helpful typically in a service industry - prodcution environment where emails is primary and important mode of communication. Hope this is helpful.

1) Meaningful subject line
2) Writing message in subject line
3) HTML / Plain Text Format
4) Insert Links via Hyperlink feature
5) Signatures
6) Copy to feature
7) Attachments
8) Font color, size, background
9) Classified folders
10) Message rules
11) Email Content
12) Other Features

1) Meaningful subject line

· Write meaningful subject lines which are relevant to the topic of conversation. Do not write incomplete subject such as – Hi, hey, update, queries, help needed, files, path, tasks etc

· For project specific emails it is better to start the subject line with the project / client name followed by the topic. E.g. Avion Concepts – art design queriesRollXP DR – unit 3 files for uploadPST BRS – module 3 storyboard etc

· Adding the project name helps in setting the messages rules to divert the emails into specific folders for the particular project. Very often people usually work on multiple projects hence the message rules cannot be applied to a person. See classified folders and message rules for more details.

· There is another advantage of writing meaningful subject lines; it helps in easily searching a particular email when needed. For e.g. a lot of time is wasted if the subject lines are incomplete or misleading and even worse if it’s missing.

· Never send emails with missing subject line. If in case you accidentally send out one without a subject, resend the mail again with proper subject and a short apology for missing out. The reason being emails without subjects are very difficult to trace for the recipients in their mailbox.

· Effective subject lines should ideally contain words most relevant to the email contents and starting with the word that the recipient will most likely type while searching for that email, when they sort their emails by subject.

2) Writing message in subject line

· Never write the entire message in the subject and nothing in the body of the email. Subject line is meant for subject line and body for body text, period. E.g. Subject: please check in the module 3 files in the VSS and come up for tea…
Not only are you misusing the features of the email but sometime it also shows disregard towards the recipients. The subject line clutters with lot of text and the user has to open the email to read the entire text. As against if the message is written in the body text it can be read within the preview pane itself.

· This also makes the email difficult to trace later on.

3) HTML / Plain Text Format

· Set the email format to ‘HTML” in the Tools>Options>Mail Format> settings. There are 3 options:
o Plain Text
o Rich Text

· The HTML format is usually preferred over plain text since it provides lot of additional features for formatting. You can use all the text formatting options that are usually available in MS Word such as fonts, Colors, Hyperlink, alignment etc.

· If you receive email in HTML format and your settings are set for Plain text then on replying the formatting of the original email is lost.

· Except for smaller email size, there seems to be no other advantage of using plain text over HTML. However, with the current bandwidths available, the slight increase in email size compensates for the enormous facilities available in HTML format.

4) Insert Links via Hyperlink feature

· Always use the ‘Insert Hyperlink’ option whenever you want to send some link via email.

· The hyperlink feature ensures the link does not break if it exceeds the available line width.

· There have been many instances where in this feature was not used and links were broken and the client responding with ‘Link not working’ feedback.

· Again you need to have the email format set to ‘HTML’ to avail this facility.

5) Signatures

· Always use signatures in official mails. It gives a professional touch to the email.

· There are various types of signatures and the use of appropriate signature style depends on various factors such as:
o Your designation and job profile
§ People in managerial positions often need to have the company logo, company address, Websites, Email IDs, and phone/fax numbers listed in the signature.
§ The ones in senior management and finance / legal department who send out confidential emails may need to include disclaimer in the signature.
o The number of people you interact with regularly
§ For Sales / Senior Management people it is important to have a detailed and elaborate signature since they interact with new people / clients on a regular basis.
§ For a Lead or an LP who is working on the same project and interacts with the same set of people regularly throughout the lifecycle of the project need not have an elaborate signature prefixed with the email every time.
o The people whom you interact with regularly
§ For the juniors who may need to interact very often only with their peers and seniors within the company may exclude the details such as logo, phone numbers, address, disclaimer etc

· The style of signatures depends on individual taste. The one shown below is an example for generic usage having certain advantages

o The signature is horizontal as against vertical. This consumes less space and can be read at one go. One usually reads the mails in the preview pane. If the signatures are vertical and long then it adds scrollbar even when the messages are short. Very often the tendency is to scroll till the end even if it’s just a signature. For the people who receive mails in hundreds within a day this adds up to the task of reading emails.

o Very often only the name part is of prime importance in the signature. Hence the name is colored and is in bold. The recipient will require the remaining information very rarely. Hence they are colored grey and use a smaller font.

o The phone numbers are needed only once in a while, therefore they are in smallest font.

o The idea is that the signature and its content should not distract the reader from the text message of the email which is of primary importance.

o The line separators help in easily distinguishing and separating the signature from the body text.

· Use different signatures for replies. Usually the signatures associated with reply emails are short and only include the name. The reason being if you have received an email, chances are you already know the sender and are most likely to have interacted with them. So the information present in the new email signature might be redundant out here. You can always manually insert your new email signature, when needed.

· As far as possible try and avoid adding a quotation to a signature in official emails. The reason being the quotations that you choose is of personal preference and chances are it may not be inline with the preferences of the recipient. There is a possibility to create a particular image of the person / or judge a person based on the quote that one uses. Ideally you would not like to give out any perceived image through this means.
* For personal emails that you send out to friends / family, of course you can use quotations since they know you very well.

6) Copy to feature:

· In the ‘To’ field enter the emails IDs of the people to whom the email is directly addressed to in the content.

· Enter the emails IDs in the ‘Cc’ field of the people who needs to be kept in loop but you are not expecting them to respond or take actions on the contents of the email. Typically in an email addressed to a client by a Project Lead will usually have the direct stakeholders addressed in the ‘To’ field and the seniors at both sides in the ‘Cc’ field.

· If it’s an important email, you may want to address it to your self as well. There are two advantages for this:

o You receive a copy immediately and you can go through the contents once again to validate it. (Of course you can always go to your sent items and check it from there. However, you will need to build that discipline in this case to go and check them from sent items every time)

o The email resides in your inbox and can be retrieved easily when needed. Also it stays there along with the related emails on the same topic which helps while going through the entire chain of past emails on a particular topic.

7) Attachments

· Check the size of the attachments before sending emails. Usually there are restrictions to size limits defined by System Departments both in our company as well as at the recipient end. Attachments below 2 MB are usually safe to send. If a need arises to send across larger files, it’s always a better option to upload the files on FTP and send out the FTP details to the client.

· Avoid sending executable files as attachments. Most of the emails block these file types for security reasons e.g. .exe, .dll etc. Instead zip them and send it or upload them on ftp.

· Always zip the files before sending them as attachments. A zip file reduces the size considerably and is also a convenient method to send, receive and retrieve at one place.

8) Font color, size, background

· Use standard formats for official emails. Avoid using offbeat font styles, font colors and other options. The widely used formats are:

o 10 pt. Arial – While composing new messages
o 10 pt. Arial – While replying and forwarding

· Avoid using backgrounds for official emails. They make the text unreadable in cases of choosing wrong combination of font, color and background and it also increase the email size.

9) Classified folders

· Create separate folders for different types of emails. This helps a lot in effectively managing your emails in outlook. Some of the typical folders that you can have are
o Projects
o Proposals
o Personal
o System
o Committees
o Senior Management etc

· Within the projects folder you can have separate folders for each project.

10) Message rules

· You can apply message rules to automatically divert the emails to respective folders when they arrive. You can apply message rules for people, text in subject line / body, distribution list etc. See help in outlook for more details.

11) Email Content

· Always address the email to the person/s to whom you are sending. Do not start with the message directly. E.g. Hi xyz, Hello xyz, Dear xyz, Hi All, Greetings, etc

· For official emails to clients, use introduction as far as possible. E.g. How are you doing? Hope you are doing well… I would like to update you on the project status and the deliverables for this week… Thank you for you confirmation on our assumptions… etcThe emails should always have a beginning, main content, and an ending. Do not start with the main content directly.

· The emails should have an ending where you can summarize the content of the email, thank the client, express interest in hearing back from the client etcE.g. As a team we are very excited with this initiative and look forward to partnering with you in this effort…We look forward to hear back from you soon… etc

· In the content of the emails try and use bulleted points or numbered list wherever applicable instead of writing long paragraphs. Listed and point wise entries are easy to follow and objective in nature. Most of the official communications do require this kind of approach.

· Turn on the ‘spell check before sending email’ option. Make sure there are no grammatical and spelling errors. Go through the email once again before sending it. Some of the words pass the spell check but may not be the ones that we intend to write. E.g. bare instead of bear, their instead of there etc. These errors can sometimes result in miscommunication and problems.

· Get acquainted with different abbreviations used in emails such as:
EOD – End Of Day
FYI – For Your Information
FYI&A – For You Information & Action
PFA – Please Find Attached
ASAP – As Soon As Possible
viz. - namely
et al. – and others etc

· Do not use slang or shortcuts in official emails such as u, ur, bcoz, n, gr8 etc.

· Do not use bold lettered words / sentences (in CAPS) in the email. Also do not highlight statements in Red. These can be interpreted as you ‘Shouting’ at the recipient. As far as possible avoid using this.

12) Other Features

· Use emails for all communications. Especially after a call and meetings use it to note and confirm the minutes. This way there is always a written confirmation of the information exchanged.

· If you need some information or action to be done which is super urgent or critical, follow up with a call or meet the person after sending an email. Do not expect an immediate receipt or acknowledgement of emails from anyone. There could be ‘n’ number of reasons for the person not acknowledging or acting on your email.

· Outlook allows assigning priorities to the emails. Assign the importance: high priority, only to important emails and do not overuse / misuse this feature.

· Outlook allows setting read receipt to the emails that you send out. This feature should be used only in critical situations where you would really like to get a read receipt. Most of the times it is frustrating for the recipients to click on the read receipt message box every time they view emails. Think of the inconvenience caused to the people who receive emails in access of 100 per day.

· Outlook allows an extremely useful feature called ‘Follow Up’. When you click on the follow up flag the email shows up in the follow up folder. For emails that you wish to reply or take a follow up action (as the name suggests) but at a later stage, should be flagged to move them to the follow up folder. This way you know exactly the emails that you are yet to respond to. Once the action is taken, you can clear the flag and the email is emptied from this folder.

· Message Alerts, pop-ups, and Email Notification – The use of this feature depends on the job profile. If you are an implementer and need to focus and concentrate on the work at hand, then the email notifications may cause a distraction in work. However, for Managers who mostly need to work through emails for sending and getting information, the pop-up notifications and tray bar icons are useful.

· Message Recall – If you send out an email and wish to recall it for any reason, you can try using the option ‘Recall Message’ from the Action > Recall this message setting in the sent email. However there is no guarantee that this feature will work, still its worth giving a try in extreme circumstances.

~ By Sandeep Khomne

Part 5 - A collection of Quotes, One-Liners, Dialogs, Thoughts, Proverbs, Sayings....

Part 5 - A collection of Quotes, One-Liners, Dialogs, Thoughts, Proverbs, Sayings....
Warren Buffett has said, “Only when you combine sound intellectual framework with emotional discipline, you get a rational behavior”.
Santayana said, “Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it”
“In the short run, stock market is a voting machine and in the long run it is a weighing machine”.Ben Graham’s immortal words in ‘The Intelligent Investor’
John Kenneth Galbraith’s “There are 2 types of predictors: those who can’t predict and those who don’t know they can’t predict.”
"The potential profit to be taken into account is not the maximum figure which might conceivably be reached in the market, but merely the highest figure which the operator is likely to wait for before he closes his position. Once a given profit is taken, the additional profit which might have been realized becomes of merely academic interest"
“Extrapolation may give you the ability to see what’s coming down the street but not what is coming around the corner”—Henry Kaufman
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”Albert Einstein
Peter Lynch, a very well-known and successful fundamental analyst, once commented, "Charts are great for predicting the past."
Practicality rules our perceptions.
“There are two types of people in the world, my young friend. One type is people-oriented. When they make conversation,it is about people—what people are doing, what someonesaid, how someone feels. The other group is idea-oriented. When they make conversation, they talk about ideas and concepts and objects.”
Scott Adam - God's Debris
It's a self preservation thing, you see
- Dlg from the movie 'Love Actually'
The earth has enough for man’s need but not for man’s greed.
- Mahatma Gandhi
An eye for an eye makes the world go blind.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Every morning in Africa, when the Sun rises, a deer awakens, knowing, it has to outrun the fastest Lion, OR, be hunted to death....
Every morning in Africa, when the Sun rises, a Lion awakens, knowing, it has to outrun the slowest deer, OR, be starved to death....
It does not matter whether you are a deer or Lion, when the Sun rises,Better be running at your best.
"Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable." - Mark Twain
To gain knowledge, add something every day;to gain wisdom, remove something every day.- Lao Tzu
Nishkulanand sings: 'Renunciation of objects, without the renunciation of desires, is short-lived, however hard you may try.'
'Only he Who is smitten with the arrows of love. Knows its power.'
A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word.- Mahatma Gandhi
Tolstoy said that the Eiffel Tower was a monument of man's folly, not of his wisdom. Tobacco, he argued, was the worst of all intoxicants, inasmuch as a man addicted to it was tempted to commit crimes which a drunkard never dared to do; liquor made a man mad, but tobacco clouded his intellect and made him build castles in the air. The Eiffel Tower was one of the creations of a man under such influence. There is no art about the Eiffel Tower. In no way can it be said to have contributed to the real beauty of the Exhibition. Men flocked to see it and ascended it as it was a novelty and of unique dimensions. It was the toy of the Exhibition. So long as we are children we are attracted by toys, and the Tower was a good demonstration of the fact that we are all children attracted by trinkets. That may be claimed to be the purpose served by the Eiffel Tower.
"The mind must always remain in the state of present."
B.K.S. Iyenger
Do not confuse activity with Productivity.
"Most of the evils of life arise from man's being unable to sit still in a room." - Blaise Pascal
Economics 101: When there are no barriers to entry, prices fall to equilibrium.
Dayton goes on to enumerate what he sees as the iPhone’s other shortcomings: “No removable battery. No removable memory. No GPS,” he says. “It has a bigger screen, so watching a movie on it will be better—but with no removable battery, you’re not really going to want to do that and make phone calls. So you’ve got the houseboat problem: It’s neither a house nor a boat, it’s both, and it’s not particularly great at either.”
Being rich is just a function of how much you earn. But being wealthy is a function of how well you manage your money.
A customer is the most important visitor to our premises.He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.He is not an interruption on our work. He is the purpose of it.He is not an outsider on our business. He is a part of it.We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
Mahatma Gandhi
"Since we started the project four years back, there has been a steep increase in input cost, but a promise is a promise,"
~ Tata Group chief Ratan Tata said after displaying his dream project (Tata Nano at Rs. 1 Lac) at the ninth Auto Expo in Delhi on 10th Jan 2008.
"Pharma companies don't care about fighting diseases that primarily affect the poor because the poor can't afford to buy their products. " – Inspired by the Global Forum for Health Research.